PORTLAND -- In one of their toughest comebacks of the season, the Jazz came together to fight off a 25-point deficit Sunday in Portland, sweeping their series with the Blazers in a 93-89 win led by Carlos Boozer's 22-point, 23-rebound effort.
"We came out and we didn't play that good early. Even in that third quarter, we didn't play that good. They got up a lot, but I'll tell you one thing, we've got a lot of heart in this team," Boozer said in a post-game interview on FSN. "We kept fighting - and the next thing you know, somehow we just clicked. We started hitting shots, started setting harder screens, started getting rebounds."
"Whatever the case may be, we're gonna go hard. That's the mark of our team, and it's the reason why we're here," Boozer said.
As the clock wound down to give the Jazz just five seconds to tie or take the lead after an incredible push to get back in the game, Boozer came away with the biggest play of the night as he grabbed an offensive board after Williams' missed jumper and hooked the ball back off glass to tie the game at 83 and send his team into their second overtime battle of the season.
"I knew (Williams) was gonna shoot the ball, so I pushed (Marcus) Camby as far under the rim as I could and went up and grabbed it. I knew I had to throw it up quick, so I just threw it over the top of his hand and God was with me and it went in," Boozer said.
Boozer's 23 rebounds set a new career high for the strong power forward and saved Utah's streak from coming to a screeching halt in Rip City.
"We kept fighting - and the next thing you know, somehow we just clicked. We started hitting shots, started setting harder screens, started getting rebounds," Boozer said.
Contrary to their last game at the Rose Garden, the Jazz produced one of their ugliest first quarters of the season, and ended the first 12 minutes down 13 points to their Western Conference foe. Their shooting percentage was incredibly low, they lost Andrei Kirilenko to back spasms and they gave up several turnovers in a performance that nearly ended the longest road winning streak they've achieved in eight years.
"We never quit. That's the reason we've been so successful, especially in the second half of this season. The run we've been on, the way we've been playing as a group of guys, we've got so much heart in that locker room," Boozer said. "Whatever the case may be, we're gonna go hard. That's the mark of our team, and it's the reason why we're here."
Boozer led the Jazz at the half with only nine points, but started finding his rhythm after the break and brought his team back to life late in the third quarter. Boozer's tough inside play and pressure on the boards gave the Jazz the opportunity to get their 36th win of the season and their seventh straight win on the road, as Kirilenko watched from the locker room, Paul Millsap sat on the bench in foul trouble, and Mehmet Okur was at home with his family.
"We're playing physical basketball, we're making plays when we need to, and we're getting it done," Korver said.
After sending the game into extra minutes with his buzzer-beating hook shot, Boozer got a bucket down low with three minutes left in overtime to give the Jazz the advantage for the first time since leading 9-8 in the first quarter. Guard reserve Kyle Korver said that Sunday's game was just another in a long line of tough performances from a truly aggressive team.
"I think the Jazz have always been known as a tough team because of Coach Sloan, but the last couple years, I haven't really felt like we've had that toughness, that swagger to us," Korver said. "This year we're tough. We're playing physical basketball, we're making plays when we need to, and we're getting it done."
Utah's overtime victory improved their overall record to 36-19, preserved their half game distance from the No. 2 Nuggets, and allowed them to maintain their leverage over the No. 3 Mavericks.